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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane: ‘This Should Have Been a Title Fight’

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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane Bellator

With a perfect 3-0 record for the year thus far, Bellator flyweight Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has made a real name for herself in 2016.

Defeating Emily Ducote at Bellator 167 in Oklahoma on December 3 would be the near-perfect exclamation point on Macfarlane’s breakthrough year. The only thing missing is a flyweight title belt attached to the upcoming bout.

Like Macfarlane, Ducote has a perfect record inside the Bellator cage, with impressive submission wins over Bruna Vargas and Kenya Miranda moving her clear of the pack. Now the two meet as part of the Bellator 167 main card. The winner might not be wearing championship gold once the fight is over, but they will have cemented their status as Bellator’s number one flyweight.

“Each fight from here on out, because we’re so early on in our careers, each fight is our biggest fight.” acknowledged Macfarlane regarding the pivotal nature of the bout.

“I actually think that Ducote is the toughest opponent in the division, and that’s also like stylistically, because our styles are very similar.”

With five Bellator wins between them, and two submission wins a piece, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Emily Ducote could easily have been the promotion’s inaugural flyweight title fight. Macfarlane has not yet heard anything about when a belt will be up for grabs, but knows that a win over Ducote makes her impossible to ignore when that title is eventually introduced.

“Bellator hasn’t said anything to me at all. Everything I know is just based off of reports that have been on social media or something. But I do agree that the winner of this fight, they would be the frontrunner of this division.

“I also was thinking if they were gonna crown a champ, I believe Scott (Coker) wanted to crown one and in the past he said he wanted to crown one before the end of the year. I thought that if they were gonna stick to that plan then this should have been a title fight because again, Ducote I think is the toughest in the division right now.”

The importance of this bout, combined with the ongoing development of Macfarlane’s young career led to the fighter embarking on her toughest fight camp to date. In top ten bantamweight Liz Carmouche, Macfarlane had one heck of a training partner in San Diego.

“This camp has definitely been my most intense camp. It’s been brutal. I did it with Liz Carmouche who is one of the top ten in the UFC, so her camps are gonna be at that level. So the fact that I did my camp with her, and I also started it earlier, she fought like two/three weeks before my fight, so my camp was extended.

“My head trainer was like ‘yeah you know, you’re at that level now, so that’s why we’re amping everything up. Like this is the level of camp that you’re gonna be doing from here on out.’ And that was because Ducote is my biggest fight to date.”

Watching Macfarlane’s quick career progression has been a thrilling experience. Memories of her professional debut against “Soccer Mom” Katie Castro are left in the past, as Bellator has quickly become the fighter’s home.

Bellator provides a big platform on Spike TV for fighters to showcase their talent, especially for one so young in their professional career. Macfarlane only made that pro debut in January 2015. By August of that year she was stepping into the Bellator cage to face Maria Rios. It is a transition that Macfarlane has been able to take in her stride.

“It’s been so easy and that’s really because of Bellator itself. The staff is awesome, I know everybody there. They make me feel so comfortable, and they have so much confidence in me and a lot of faith in me so I just feel very supported by them.

“It’s also been because of my team and my corner, ya know my coaches are the ones that really have been handling a lot of my career moves and I trust them with everything. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve been in the business for years so, everything has been relatively stress free on my end.”

The Bellator-Macfarlane relationship has been a mutually beneficial one. While the fighter is quick to point out that she considers the promotion to be her home, both now and for the future, Macfarlane’s performances have also provided Bellator with a breakout star in a division they are keen to grow.

So when the offer came in, there was no doubt in Macfarlane’s mind that Bellator was where she wanted to fight. Her Hawaiian heritage played a part in that too.

“One of the main reasons too that I wanted to fight for Bellator was I was going to be a part of this new wave of Bellator fighters. Also I would be the first Hawaiian female fighter. In Invicta we have Raquel (Pa’aluhi) and Rachael (Ostovich), in the UFC we have Kailin Curran, and so I was like yeah, there’s actually no female fighters from Hawaii in Bellator. I kind of thought that I would be able to represent and make a good name for myself in Bellator.

“I love Bellator. I would love to stay with them. I do consider them my home. This is where I’m supposed to be. They’re the ones that took a risk on me. They took a chance signing this viral “fighter”, so I love it here.”

After defeating Rios by decision in her promotional debut, Macfarlane went on to submit Amber Tackett in her sophomore outing. That set up a bout with Rebecca Ruth, who was coming off a big win over Lena Ovchynnikova. Macfarlane went in the underdog, but emerged with another submission victory.

Against Ducote in Oklahoma, Macfarlane will step into the cage with the added pressure of being the favourite. It is a pressure that she feels will even itself out on fight night.

“I enjoy being the underdog, I enjoy not having all that pressure on me. I would prefer that ya know, but I think there is kind of a trade off because I might be coming into this as the favourite, however I’m also going into her hometown where I’m not gonna be the favourite, so I think it evens itself out in the end.”

With hundreds of thousands of fans watching live on Spike TV, and with divisional bragging rights on the line, Macfarlane was clear about what we should expect on December 3. The unexpected.

“Our gameplan for this is so all over the place, just because we don’t know where this fight is gonna go, so I think you guys might be in for an unpredictable fight to be honest. I think it’s just gonna come down to who shows up that day, who wants it more, who has more heart, just because we are so similar stylistically.”

If her words ring true, and given the previous Bellator performances from both fighters there is no reason for doubt, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Emily Ducote will be Bellator 167’s showstealer.

The winner won’t be walking out of the cage with a championship belt, but there will be no doubting their position as Bellator’s number one flyweight. If McFarlane is successful on December 3, that’s a pretty good place to be in as her second year as a pro comes to an end.

Bellator 167 takes place December 3 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The event is headlined by a lightweight rematch between Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Derek Campos. The Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Emily Ducote bout will be part of the main card which airs like on Spike TV.

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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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